A 39-year-old footballer killed during a fracas following an amateur match was a life-long Manchester United fan with a "passion" for the game, his family said yesterday.

Thomas Slattery died of head injuries on Sunday after a confrontation during a clash between two Birmingham Sunday League teams.

In a statement released through West Midlands Police, Mr Slattery's wife Siobhan paid tribute to him as a "caring" man who would be deeply missed.

Mrs Slattery said they had got married 12 years ago but had known each other for 31 years.

She said: "He was a very hard working man, an excellent and loving husband, father and brother.

" Everyone who knew Tommy loved him. He was a funny and positive man who let nothing get him down. He was there for all of his children."

Mr Slattery, who was known as Tommy, lived in the Stockland Green area of Birmingham with Siobhan and their six children - Michael, aged 21, James, aged 20, Sarah, aged 18, Marie, aged 11, Shannon, aged ten, and six-year-old Claire.

He worked as a slaughterman in the Digbeth area of the city and had three children from an earlier relationship: Robert, aged 20, Louise, aged 18 and Elizabeth, aged 14.

He also managed his own club, The Leopards, in the Erdington area of the city.

Mrs Slattery said: "He had a passion for football and had supported Manchester United FC since he was a child.

"Tommy was caring, kind and a gentle man who will be deeply missed by everyone who knows him. I loved him so much."

Three Birmingham men, aged 25, 27 and 29, were arrested on suspicion of murder following the game between St Joseph's and Lozells AMG and granted police bail pending further inquiries.

A force spokesman confirmed that officers were called to playing fields in the Kingstanding area of the city at 12.29pm on Sunday.

The spokesman added: "Towards the end of the game, there was a dispute between two players and, following the game, two players were involved in a confrontation while walking back to the changing rooms.

" Other players then became involved in the dispute, during which the victim was assaulted."

Mr Slattery was taken to Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, but died less than an hour later.

Five of the children released statements paying tribute to their father as "the best dad you could ever get".

His eldest son, Michael, said: "I thought he was going to be with us forever and always. It hurts so much. We will never forget him as long as we live."